Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides
It is more than a year since part 1. How embarrassing.

To resume my Parking and TOD series, here is a presentation from my July webinar with Pawan Mulukutla of Embarq India.

I hope you find it thought provoking! It was aimed at an India-based audience but it includes arguments, frameworks and examples that are relevant to every city.

The slides are a mix of mine and Embarq's. Thanks to the Embarq India team for organizing the webinar (my first!).

If you can't see the Slideshare slideshow above and you want to, please get in touch and I will send you a pdf.

Click here for more on Embarq's work on Transit Oriented Development in India. 

During the webinar we posed these "poll questions" to the audience.
  1. Should reforms to make real TOD much easier to develop be a high priority for India's cities?
  2. Improved ON-street parking management is needed to enable reform of OFF-street parking regulations in India’s cities. Do you believe local authorities in India can dramatically improve their management of on-street parking?
  3. São Paulo’s new master plan eliminates parking minimums citywide and imposes parking maximums within the TOD zone along transit corridors (one space per residential unit). If developers want to build more, they will be charged an extra fee per parking space in excess of the maximum (like a ‘deficiency charge’ in reverse). Would you support such a maximum along with an excess parking fee for TOD zones in India? 
  4. For a place like Ghatkopar TOD Zone, would you support a cap on parking supply?   (so that the net number of car parking spaces is fixed at the existing number or less)
What do you think?

No comments

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II
In my previous post, Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part I, I reached three main conclusions about the city’s parking minimum approach:
  1. Parking is the land use growing at the fastest rate.
  2. Most real estate projects in the city provide an amount of parking close to the legal requirement.
  3. There is no relation between the amount of parking built and the distance to a mass transit station, since the minimum is the same citywide and developers provide as close to the minimum as possible.
Based on data on parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, Part I ended with the phrase “this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to”.

In other words: this suggests that demand for parking is lower than the minimum requirement. 

Let me explain.

Look at Figure 1 below. By making it illegal to build less parking than the minimum, the law makes it impossible for us to see all of what could be happening below that value (on the left side).

Figure 1. Actual parking (as % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments

Imagine that the minimum is abolished. The distribution above should converge to a normal distribution with a shape that resembles a bell (Gaussian bell). The highest point of the bell is the expected value of the variable, in this case the market demand for parking.

We are now in the position to evaluate three possibilities about the relation between the parking minimum regulation and the market demand for parking:

Possibility #1. Market parking demand equals the regulation

If this is true the bell curve would have a similar shape to the figure above, where the highest point is exactly where the minimum is. So, the data shown does not automatically refute this possibility.

But is it really plausible?

We know that the regulation is 30 years old. And it was created using the usual “rigorous” process of copying other cities’ parking requirements.

Is it possible that by an amazing coincidence, the regulation had the good fortune of precisely predicting parking demand 30 years later? If so, the planners may deserve a Nobel Prize in Economics for predicting the demand for parking so well three decades in advance.

That seems an improbable coincidence of too many factors.

Possibility #2. Market parking demand is higher than the regulation

We can easily reject this possibility with the following argument.

The only limitations on building more parking than the amount required are the market and the physical and financial realities of each site. There are no legal impediments to providing more parking, such as parking maximums and/or parking caps per zone. The amount of parking is only limited by the budget and expected profit of the project.

So if this possibility is true and the demand for parking is significantly higher than the minimum, then we would expect the highest point of the bell to be further to the right on our graph (as shown in Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. How parking distribution would look if demand was higher than the minimum

Clearly, the data on parking supply is not consistent with possibility #2.

Possibility #3  The parking minimum exceeds the demand for parking

We are left with this third possibility. The minimum parking requirement must exceed the demand for parking. The peak of the bell curve is probably well below the current minimum.

In the absence of the parking minimum, many projects would build less parking.

Retail is the exception

Retail is the lonely exception to the comments above. Retail has a significantly higher observed percentage of parking spaces above the minimum compared with the rest of the projects in the study (see Figure 3 below).

Retail (big-box) projects added 22.4% more parking than required on average, while in general it was 10.4%. Mixed use developments provided 7.6% above the minimum when housing was part of the equation and 5.6% when there was no housing in the mixed use development.

Figure 3. Percentage of parking above the minimum per land use

It seems that retail construction is the only case with a strong desire to provide more parking than required by the regulation. These projects are malls, characterized by their automobile oriented design that requires large sites.

However, less parking is built when retail has a smaller scale (human oriented design) and when it forms part of a mixed use development.

We see two main reasons for these retail parking supply patterns:

  1. Large retails seeks to provide enough parking for peak demand days of the year (such as the Christmas season) amounting to no more than 30 days of the year, even if it stays underutilized the rest of the calendar. 
  2. Retail developments in Mexico City gain revenue from priced parking in the retail parking garages. 

It is also said that anchor stores require 50 to 100% more spots than the law as a condition to their leasing contracts in some areas.

Extra parking helps us to understand why retail projects use a lower percentage of their zoning rights than the rest. Retail projects develop only 68.8% of their rights on average, when the overall average is 81.9%. Financial, land, underground and space resources in a project that are devoted to parking cannot be used for the primary use of the site.


Minimum parking requirements that exceed parking demand impose additional costs on development. This undermines density and increases the living expenses of the whole population, car owners or not. This amounts to a subsidy for driving in the form of cheap ample parking that will bring more congestion in the future. Contrary to the claimed rationale, required parking in no way mitigates the urban impacts of real estate development.

Instead of excessive parking minimums, the city should encourage new urban instruments such as parking maximums and taxes to capture some of the money invested in parking and redirect it to better transit, cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure.

For example, 1.2 million square meters of new offices are expected in the city within the next 3 years. Under the regulation (1 parking space for every 30 square meters), 40,000 new parking spaces are mandated with a conservatively estimated construction cost of 500 million USD. Is it a “social benefit” to encourage 40,000 more cars to commute every day through the principal corridors of the city?

With that money the city could build 70 km of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and move more than 600,000 commuters instead of 40,000. Or we could add 50 km of complete streets (with BRT included), 140,000 publicly shared bikes, more than 8 million square meters of high quality sidewalks or more than 1,000 km of cycle lanes. Such options, not mandated parking, would provide true mitigation of real estate development.

ITDP will soon publish the English version of the report Menos Cajones, Más Ciudad (Less Parking, More City).

No comments

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

Parking policy can be confusing.

North American parking experts Todd Litman and Donald Shoup both urge a shift away from the standard practice of relying on minimum parking requirements set at cautiously high levels. Therefore, many folks assume that their respective 'new paradigms’ are similar. In reality, most of their central suggestions and their key assumptions are strikingly different! (as explained below)

There are many similar cases of confusion over parking policy options around the world. Parking policy debate is too often muddled!

We need a clearer picture of the key municipal parking policy alternatives and of the different reform agendas

To begin, consider the diagram below and focus first on the two questions in red at the top and on the right.

These define three paradigms (three of the four boxes at the 'back' of the diagram): Conventional Site-Focused; Area Management; and Responsive.

Then a third question, along the top-left diagonal, defines further sub-categories along a third dimension: attitudes to parking supply.

This might seem puzzling at first but I argue that this scheme captures most parking policy diversity. Even more importantly, it also captures the thinking behind such diversity.

Some examples:

Parking policy in classic auto-oriented suburbia (with conventional site-focused and seeking to ensure plentiful supply)
contrasts with that of Downtown Santa Monica near LA (with area management and roughly matching supply to demand)
City of London skyline
and contrasts even more with policy in central London (area management with supply deliberately limited)
Seattle - Chinatown gate 11
or Seattle's Chinatown (similar to Santa Monica except with more effort to foster responsiveness in prices, demand and supply)
or Japan's cities (on paper, seemingly site-focused, but in actual practice amazingly responsive, with much parking on a commercial basis with market prices and supply responding to demand via price signals).

Regular readers might remember my earlier efforts to explain these issues.

I claimed that conventional suburban parking policy has several rivals, not just one.

I highlighted the contrasting assumptions of these different approaches, which 'frame' parking itself in different ways. I searched for useful analogies to get this message across.

I talked about three flavours of parking policy. And I claimed that we can get three main paradigms of parking policy from two key questions.

I have now developed these ideas much further in a new paper:

“A Parking Policy Typology for Clearer Thinking on Parking Reform” in the International Journal of Urban Studies, 2014.   
here is the journal's page for the properly formatted and copy-edited final version of the paper (paywalled sorry):  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/12265934.2014.927740.  

Here is a more detailed version of the graphic above

It sums up the new way to categorize parking policy approaches that I propose in the paper. This version also portrays three parking reform agendas and provides more detail on the policies associated with specific positions in the scheme.

As mentioned above, the three key questions are in red. The two questions at top and right define three main paradigms (shown in red-brown all-caps). They are: the conventional site focused, area management and responsive approaches.  And each main paradigm has different varieties depending on the attitude to parking supply (which is the third dimension in the typology).

Reform thrusts

The scheme suggests three key thrusts of parking reform (blue arrows) along each dimension (and usually in the direction indicated for those of us who are seeking to ease the grip of car dependence and car dependent assumptions in planning).

This brings us back to the contrast between Litman and Shoup.

Most of Todd Litman's parking policy suggestions involve two of these thrusts:
  1. reforms to shift backwards along the supply-attitudes dimension by reducing oversupply (or to even limit supply) while improving management so modest supply causes few problems;
  2. reforms to shift leftwards from the site-focused approaches towards an emphasis on shared and public parking, which requires better on-street management but also opens up many more parking management policy opportunities. 
Donald Shoup and the Shoupistas focus especially on:
  • fostering market responsiveness (upwards on the diagram), by abolishing parking requirements (deregulating supply) and by having demand-responsive pricing, while also improving management and sweetening the deal for relevant stakeholders to make this politically feasible. 

Specific positions on the diagram explained in more detail

The small black writing in the detailed diagram provides brief explanations of the parking policies that correspond to each position in the scheme.  You will probably need to click the image and enlarge to read them.

  • Parking policies in the suburbs of most automobile dependent metro areas, with their reliance on excessive parking minimums, are at the extreme front and lower right on the diagram.
  • Places taking steps to slightly moderate the level of their parking minimums (right-sizing the requirements) are a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension but still in the conventional site-focused lower-right section.
  • A district that allows fees-in-lieu of required parking (pdf) but which still aims to ensure plentiful public parking that is free-of-charge is still at the extreme front of the supply-attitudes dimension but this time at the lower left position. Despite plentiful free parking supply, this is a case of area management, with an emphasis on public and shared parking.
  • Many town centres adopt the approach above, focusing more on public rather than private on-site parking, but with a little less emphasis on plentiful supply. This often spurs them to start pricing and managing their parking more aggressively. Downtown Santa Monica is an example. On the diagram, it sits a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension and still within the lower-left area management section.
  • Busy districts that actively restrict parking supply, such as central London, central Seoul, central San Francisco or central Sydney, are at the back and left on the diagram. As shown, such places vary in the extent to which they enable market responsiveness.
  • The Shoupista approach emphasises market responsiveness and is in the upper left section, as is my Adaptive Parking agenda and the interesting case of Japanese cities. Seattle's Chinatown is an example of a place that has been trying parts of the Shoupista agenda.

If any of this intrigues or puzzles you, then please click through to the paper for details.

Please share if it seems useful! 

And feel free to ask questions or give your views on this in the comments.


Monday, October 27, 2014

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums
In "São Paulo's parking U-turn" I reported that:
Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.
The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!
A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.
However, Rafael Lemieszek from São Paulo commented on the post with a helpful clarification. Thanks! (and apologies that I didn't notice the comment at first)

He points out that "maximums" is not quite the right word. However, with no concise alternative, I can see why reports on the issue decided to use it.

The description above is OK for a rough idea but parking policy wonks may want a deeper understanding. 

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr.Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Here are Rafael's key points:
Up until recently, parking space didn't add to the net area used to calculate FAR. [...]
But what the article calls the "maximum" number [of] parking spaces is actually the amount of spots that are exempt of the paid FAR. [...] Whatever exceeds that "maximum" is counted as built area as much as anything else. 
Rafael also gives some important context on how FAR is now being used in São Paulo zoning:
Recently we've been implementing what we're calling [...] "paid allowance for building rights" - so the basic FAR has been set to 1 in most of the city and you can reach up to a maximum FAR in certain areas (up to 4 around transit corridors in SP).

Confused? Let me recap: 

  1. Previously, even if developers built more parking than the parking minimums required, none of that parking counted towards the floor area total used in calculating the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) (called FSI in some places). 
  2. Now, for the first time, there is a limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area. 
  3. Developers can still build parking beyond this limit, but it will count as floor area. 
  4. This extra parking attracts a fee ("paid allowance for building rights"), just like any kind of built area in excess of the basic FAR for the relevant area. 

This is actually similar to the rule in Singapore. 

However, in Singapore it is simply the minimum requirement that defines the limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area.

As I explained in a previous post "Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?", Singapore real-estate developers
have good reason to view the parking standards as maximums and not just as minimums. Why? Because only the required parking is exempted from counting as part of their allowed floor area (gross floor area, GFA) under the development controls (zoning). This means that if they build any more parking over and above the minimum requirements, they will have to reduce something else. And those ‘something elses’ (like shops, offices, hotel rooms, etc) earn much more revenue than parking (at least for now). So developers in Singapore apparently don't usually build any more than the minimum amount of parking.
By contrast, from Rafael's explanation, in São Paulo the amount of parking that is exempt from counting as floor area might be different from the minimum requirement. Presumably the exempt-parking limit is higher than the minimum parking requirement.

How important is exempting parking from floor area calculations?

I have often wondered about this.

How common is limiting the parking that is exempt from counting as floor area (like in São Paulo and Singapore)?

I suspect that this seemingly esoteric choice may be quite powerful. I think it may deserve greater attention. And it needs a name, to give us a concise way of talking about it. "Parking floor-area exemptions"? Hmm.

If you have read this whole post, you are probably quite a parking policy wonk! So, what do you think?

So thanks again, Rafael, for the detailed clarification.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut
Recently, ITDP Mexico conducted an extensive analysis of parking management in Mexico City. I coordinated this work. The report is only in Spanish for now.

We started with a journey through all the legal instruments that influence parking in the city. These are mainly driven by strict minimum requirements

Then we evaluated the urban, economic, mobility and social impacts of the regulations. This included analyzing parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013. 

Here’s what we found

Parking policy in Mexico City has until now been based on the idea that cheap and abundant parking is the way to tackle congestion. But this only incentivizes car-use and automobile oriented development. 

The good news is that parking regulations will soon be reviewed under new federal and local development programs. A key aim of this review will be reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements. This recognizes that the current regulations are based on false premises: that parking supply should expand to meet demand and that off-street parking mitigates the impacts of real estate developments.

Any such reform will have to confront the popular view that there is not enough parking across the city. The existing approach is based on such a view.

But it is difficult to imagine how the incentives for parking supply could be any stronger. 

Powerful parking supply incentives

First, publicly accessible parking is permitted in  almost any zoning and with weak quality standards. As a result, most of the public parking in Mexico City is on empty land lots. These are more a case of land speculation than a mobility solution.

Second, requiring every new development to include a minimum amount of vehicle storage has guaranteed the automatic and rapid growth of supply. 

According to analysis of the 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, parking is the land use that has been growing fastest (see Figure 1). This is the obvious result when adding any other land use requires the provision of abundant parking but adding parking does not require other land uses. 

It is illegal to build housing units without parking even if there is a potential market of citizens who want to live without a car. Our regulations seem to put more importance on accommodating cars than housing citizens.

Figure 1. Floor area of various uses added each year.

Third,  most of the on-street parking spaces are given away for free and off-street parking fees are actually capped. 

So, in practice the city aims for an oversupply of parking with  low prices for users. This is obviously inconsistent with the stated official vision of a more dense, compact, lively and resilient city with less dependence on private mobility. 

We have been feeding the public perception of a parking deficit. What is lacking is an effective set of  instruments for efficient parking management.

Let’s take a closer look at the 251 projects.

In the projects analysed more than 16 million m2 of floor space was added in total. Of this, 42% was  parking, amounting to  more than 250,000 spaces. 

If Mexico City keeps on this way we will have abundant parking but much less city. 

How much parking do developers actually build?

The data show that developers are basically building the exact amount of parking that was required to them. This is a strong signal that many actually want to build less. 

Comparing the amount of parking spaces in the projects with the minimum, we see that on average they include only 10.4% more spaces than the requirement (Figure 2). In fact, parking supply in 67.7% of the developments fell between the minimum required and 10% more than that level. This is equivalent to building exactly the minimum. In practice, it is difficult to build exactly the required amount given the dimensions of each project.

Figure 2.  Actual parking (as a % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments.

There is no connection between parking supply and mass transit.

There is no relation between the amount of parking above the minimums and their distance from mass transit (Figure 3). Furthermore, the parking requirements are actually uniform across the city, regardless of public transit coverage. So there must also be no correlation between parking and mass transit access. 

Figure 3.  Parking provision (as a % above the minimum) versus distance from mass transit 

We have seen that most developments provide the minimum amount of parking that is feasible. As I said above, this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to

More on that issue in a follow-up post... 

Click here to get the full report (in Spanish) as a PDF

And here is a summary in English of the launch by ITDP with some more highlight from the report.

1 comment

Saturday, August 23, 2014

São Paulo's parking U-turn

São Paulo's parking U-turn
I live almost as far from Brazil as it is possible to be (in Singapore).

But I am intrigued by the parking reforms in São Paulo's new strategic master plan. 

The plan was approved at the end of June and released on 31 July. See herehere, here, here and here for reports in English.  Explanations of the key policy thrusts (in Portuguese) are here.

There are two key parking steps in the plan. Both are explained below. 

They are:
"Sao Paulo Congonhas 2" by Mariordo - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The City of São Paulo is eliminating parking minimums citywide.

If I understand the text correctly (via google translate), the abolition of parking minimums applies to all land uses.


This is a big deal for a city that had extremely high parking minimums

Commercial development, for example, previously required one parking space for every 45 square metres or so of floor space.

High parking minimums in São Paulo promote solo car driving and car ownership.

Excessive minimums also undermine workplace TDM ('corporate mobility programs'), as reported recently in a World Bank study.
For most employees who can afford cars, the access to free or subsidized parking more or less trumps all other factors in commuting choices. ...
We found that the availability and cost of parking depends on a complex eco-system – developers, property managers, and employers – who all have their own interests, options and solutions. ...
Ultimately we found that once parking was built and available – the interests and incentives to use it seemed to outweigh the potential benefits of any other alternative. 
What does "Citywide" actually mean?

When reports on this say the minimiums have been abolished 'citywide' they actually mean across the City of São Paulo.

The City has about 11 million residents. It is at the heart of the São Paulo metropolitan area with 39 municipalities and about 20 million people. The master plan is for the City not the wider region.

Nevertheless, I say São Paulo should now be counted among  parking minimum abolitionists!

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Maximums along transit corridors

Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.

[Update: a new post provides a clarification of the use of the word 'maximums' here]

The maximums seem to be set at:
  • one parking space per residential unit
  • one parking space per 70 square metres of floor space for non-residential.
[Again, this is my understanding, with the help of google translate. I hope I am reading the plan text correctly!]

The parking maximums reform extends on a pilot that began in certain areas in 2003.

The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!

A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.


This turns on its head the more familiar idea of 'payments in lieu of parking'. These are called 'deficiency charges' in some countries, including Singapore.

But in São Paulo developers will now have to pay for parking excess, not parking deficiency.

I would love to learn more about this aspect of the plan!

Can anyone out there enlighten us? Can you point to an explanation? Does anyone know the level of these fees?

Part of a transit-oriented corridor strategy

The parking maximums are part of a prominent effort in the plan to transform the urban fabric along transit corridors. A key aim is to increase population densities.

But the plan also seeks to make these corridors truly transit-oriented and not merely transit-adjacent.

An illustration of the plans for the transit zones (via http://gestaourbana.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/um-plano-para-orientar-o-crescimento-da-cidade-nas-proximidades-do-transporte-publico/)

For example, the plan attacks São Paulo's high-rise, low-density, street-life killing, gated towers.

Desirable areas in  São Paulo have numerous high-rise gated condomium developments. Most of these have huge housing units (often occupying entire floors) and plentiful parking.

Therefore the city's high-rise housing does not translate to density of people.

So, along with the parking maximums, the plan includes efforts to:

A wave of sustainable transport innovation in São Paulo? 

It looks like this is a city to watch for many more urban transport innovations.

MobiLab, the Mobility Laboratory of the City of São Paulo, has just been recognized by an international sustainable mobility entrepreneurship prize (MobiPrize).
Through the MobiLab, the municipal Department of Transport (SMT) of São Paulo has created a framework geared to catalyzing future and ongoing growth in New Mobility enterprise, industry, and economic development.
They have taken bold decisions required to change institutional culture (proprietary data; formal procurement processes) and opened data to developers, which has advanced user information and public participation platforms (e.g. for bikelane planning).
Also by building innovative cross-sectoral partnerships (academia and industry) they have garnered support for their Hackathons for which the city got ample participation. 

The full text of the plan is here (in Portuguese).

By the way, the full text of the plan above comes via the Cidade Aberta (Open City) website maintained by the office of city councillor Nabil Bonduki.

Nabil Bonduki (image via Cidade Aberta)
Bonduki has been a key figure pushing the reformist plan through the city council.

What can your city learn from São Paulo's parking reforms?


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Seattle's street parking pricing gets a little smarter. Is it smart enough?

Seattle's street parking pricing gets a little smarter. Is it smart enough?
Seattle's "Performance-Based Parking Pricing" is a simple version of demand-responsive pricing for on-street parking. It has largish price zones and prices get adjusted only once a year.

This Seattle simplicity contrasts with San Francisco's SFPark with its frequent data-driven adjustments to prices that vary block-by-block.

But is simple good enough? Is Seattle's version too basic?

Alan Durning of Sightline Institute complained last year that Seattle has been "slow to offer matinee parking rates, even though morning occupancy rates are low."  (See below for more from Alan on this simplicity issue.)

So I was interested to see time-of-day pricing in the latest price-revision announcement by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

The relevant slide from SDOT's 10 June 2014 presentation to the Council Transportation Committee

There will be a special morning price in only for two pricing zones this time around. In October, on-street parking rates in Pioneer Square Core and Pioneer Square Periphery will decrease for the morning pricing period (8-11am) but increase in the afternoon period (11am- 6pm). These changes are based on the low morning occupancies and high afternoon occupancies in these areas.

Compare Seattle's parking rate periods (8-11am; 11am-5pm; 5-8pm) with SFPark's ('open'=9am to noon; noon-3pm; 3pm to 'close'=6pm).

Curiously, this time-of-day thing was buried in the details of the announcement and not mentioned in the the SDOT Blog post.

Maybe time-of-day rates are not big news because there is already a precedent actually. There has been a special evening price in Chinatown since early 2013. You can see it on the price map below.

By the way, Chinatown's evening pricing is a story in itself - scroll down for more on that*.  

An earlier version of SDOT's announcement page made more of the time-of-day changes: 
Since on-street parking conditions vary tremendously by time of the day – morning versus afternoon, versus evening – we will start to adjust rates that way with our new pay stations. Different rate hours will be 8 AM – 11 AM; 11 AM – 5 PM or 6 PM; and 5 PM to 8 PM (if evening paid parking).

There will also be one other new time-varying rate - a seasonal one. Ballard Locks gets a May-September price ($2 per hour) and a October-April price ($1 per hour) (pdf) applying 8am to 6pm.

Here is the current parking rates map, not yet reflecting the announced changes to be rolled out. Click here for an up-to-date map.

Despite the new possibility of time-of-day variations, Seattle is still keeping things pretty simple.

Is near enough good enough when it comes to demand-responsive parking pricing?  Or should Seattle ramp up the sophistication of its demand-responsive parking pricing?

Alan Durning thinks more sophistication is the way. I mentioned his complaint about the lack of time-of-day prices above. Here are more of his pointed comments from last year (my emphasis added):
Unfortunately, Seattle is doing performance pricing on the cheap, with a crude, low-tech strategy that lags behind SFPark in four ways.
1. Seattle’s performance pricing is imprecise across space. The city does not have in-ground sensors, so SDOT sends workers to count empty spaces once a year... Such surveys generate data inadequate for tuning parking rates on each block, so SDOT is adjusting them in whole neighborhoods. Compare SDOT’s 29 meter districts with SFPark’s almost 1,000 separately priced block faces. In the City by the Bay, block-to-block differences proved a cure for cruising, but Seattle’s program cannot seize that benefit.
2. The Seattle program is imprecise across time. SDOT replaced every coin-operated meter in the city with pay-and-display pay stations between 2004 and 2010. Unfortunately, because it was an early adopter, it’s stuck with many early generation pay stations that tend to crash when reprogrammed remotely. As a result, someone has to go to every station—all 2,100 of them—and type in new instructions. Understandably, SDOT only adjusts meters once a year.
3. Seattle’s program has been slow to lift time limits. Its biggest relaxation of limits was to switch from two to three hours after 5 pm. (Meters stop running at 8 pm.) It has also been slow to offer matinee parking rates, even though morning occupancy rates are low.
4. SDOT’s top rate is too low. Seattle’s rate cap of $4 is a third lower than San Francisco’s $6 peak, and it’s lower than the hourly rates in many downtown garages, so performance pricing in downtown Seattle is not yet hitting its potential. Downtown Seattle has about 5,000 curb spaces priced at $4 an hour, plus about 60,000 private spaces, priced according to a variety of schemes that range up to $14 an hour. ... 
Despite the ways Seattle trails San Francisco, the Emerald City’s program is impressive. Its tools are crude, but it has kept spaces more available in more neighborhoods than ever. And it’s done so without hiking meters overall: rates have gone down in more neighborhoods than they’ve gone up. In the years ahead, Seattle could invest in catching up to SFPark.

This last comment is encouraging.

Yes, Seattle's rough-and-ready demand-responsive pricing has its problems. It fails to reap all the potential benefits. But few cities can do something like SFPark, whereas many could hope to emulate Seattle and to then improve their system step by step.

And just as important, it looks like Seattle's approach has been good enough to avoid repeal. The answer to its problems will be refinements, not abandonment. 

The major political hiccup has been the Chinatown episode (see below). Just like San Francisco's recent parking pricing furores, the hot resistance here is not to demand-responsive pricing as such. The really difficult thing is extending pricing to places and times that were previously free-of-charge.

This political pattern is both encouraging and discouraging.

It is good news for demand-responsive pricing and its prospects. But it's bad news for parking reformers, like me, who think that many cities will indeed need to extend pricing.

[Update: I now see that several areas in Seattle are to get evening parking pricing for the first time under this price review. It will be interesting to see how the politics of that plays out.]

* Seattle's Chinatown evening parking rates story (in brief)

Follow the news item and blog links below for some hyperbolic debate, if that's your taste!

Seattle's Chinatown core has a $1.50 evening rate between 5pm to 8pm period. When priced parking was first extended in the area in 2011, these evening prices were the same as the daytime prices (USD2.50) but had a longer time limit.

However, the 2011 evening extension was very controversial with business owners claiming large drops in business.  Sightline Institute weighed in, saying that was nonsense.

However, SDOT announced a review in February 2012.

And in February 2013 then Mayor McGinn announced lowered evening rates in the restaurant core of Chinatown and cancelled the evening rates after 6pm around the periphery of Chinatown.

Several councillors questioned whether this decision was data driven, as performance-pricing is meant to be, or was simply caving to the lobbying pressure. However, SDOT declared that, yes, the decision was data driven.


In the latest price review, Chinatown and ID core gets an increase in its daytime price to $3.00/hour (8am – 5pm) due to occupancy above the target range. But the evening rate remains at $1.50/hour.

[Update: Get much more detail via the actual SDOT 2014 annual parking report,

By the way, I see the following on Chinatown in the report:
Chinatown-ID Core 7pm occupancy was 72% in 2013 and 77% in 2014.
Chinatown Periphery 7pm occupancy was 52% in 2013 and 70% in 2014.
SDOT uses an occupancy target range of 70 to 85 percent.

Note that these occupancy differences (and resulting price differences) vindicate Alan Durning's point that Seattle's pricing zones are too big.

Dividing the Chinatown-ID zone into Core and Periphery in 2013 resulted in two zones with very different occupancy patterns, and hence different prices. The split gave motorists the option of walking a little to get cheaper parking than in the Core area.]


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yes, parking reform can be entertaining! Thanks, Streetfilms and ITDP.

Yes, parking reform can be entertaining! Thanks, Streetfilms and ITDP.
What is wrong with basing your parking policy on on-site parking requirements (also known as parking minimums, standards or norms)?  And is there another way?

This video from Streetfilms and ITDP explains.

PARKING: Searching for the Good Life in the City from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

In under 5 minutes, using a cute mix of animation and footage from cities around the world, it entertainingly captures why and how to reform parking supply policy away from parking minimums.

It starts with a North American/USA focus but then has strong international relevance and mentions many international cities from about 2 minutes in.

This video is an excellent resource to introduce anyone to the basics of off-street parking policy reform.

Please take a look.

Did you like this post? Then click here to get Reinventing Parking by Email!

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Is Budapest in the demand-responsive parking pricing club?

Is Budapest in the demand-responsive parking pricing club?
This post shares my efforts (so far) to understand Budapest's on-street parking price setting system and to find out if it uses a demand-responsive approach.

During the 2000s, this city of 1.7 million people (3.3 million in the metropolitan area) brought its on-street parking under much stronger control after a period of utter chaos.

I was reminded of the Budapest example by this sentence in ITDP's Parking Guidebook for Chinese Cities (p. 14):
"Budapest, San Francisco, and Seattle impose or increase on-street parking fees when demand is such that the space taken up by parked vehicles regularly exceeds a certain percentage of the street length."
This sure suggests a demand-responsive approach to price setting.

Is Budapest's on-street parking pricing REALLY a case of demand-responsive pricing (also called performance pricing)?

I thought so, based on various things I had heard. But I wanted confirmation. The one-page case study on Budapest in the same ITDP report has this:
The committee has established four parking zones in the city; prices vary between zones based on density, transportation system capacity, and documented parking occupancy.
Hmm. That doesn't sound like a purely demand-responsive price-setting approach, although it still suggests occupancy is an important criterion.
From a presentation by Zoltán Gyarmati at ITDP's 2011 Transport Systems Summit

I set out to look for more detail.  

English language searches didn't turn up anything new. So translating searches into Hungarian was the next step.  This led me to a search for the Hungarian terms "Budapest foglaltsága telítettség parkoló" (Budapest saturation occupancy parking) among others.

Some interesting events in 2010! 

The national government amended the national Traffic Law in 2010 after the Constitutional Court annulled the November 2009 municipal parking regulations, threatening the legal basis for Budapest's parking pricing.

The amendment (if I understand correctly) featured these new constraints on municipality's parking fees:
  • Required a 70% saturation trigger for on-street charging. In other words, the average occupancy for an area needs to be 70% or more for charging to be warranted at all. However, this does not apply to existing locations with priced on-street parking.
  • The maximum on-street fee was capped at double the previous year's average petrol price per litre. For perspective, gasoline currently costs about Euro 1.37 (415 Florints) in Hungary. 

Some clues that maybe prices are demand-responsive

The amendments above were criticised by environmental NGOs, who explicitly advocated using a 15% vacancy target. Aha! A sign that demand-responsive pricing was part of the debate on parking prices in Budapest in 2010 at least!

Aha again! A government spokesperson mentioned occupancy targets in an article on the debate leading up to the amendment: 
He added that the parking areas are categorized according to the saturation of the four categories accordingly 70, 80, saturation above 90 percent, or over 70 per cent saturation and road damage caused by the highly protected area.  (as rendered from Hungarian by Google translate)
This seems to be a reference to the existing practice. It strongly suggests that occupancy is crucial for something!

However ...

Budapest's May 2009 parking policy, which is a long document with many details, doesn't say anything on occupancy targets. Hmm. 

It does say that parking fees overall are based on multipliers of the public transport fare (see page 17). Each zone's price equals this base public transport fare times a special factor for that zone. When public transport fares change, so do parking fees. You can see a suggestion of this in the table next to the price map above.

There are also time-limits in most priced zones, with the highest-priced zones having 3-hour time limits for parking.

Maybe demand determines the zone boundaries and the price multipliers?

This was the suggestion above. If so, we might still have a case of demand-responsive pricing here.

I found an April 2013 example of an extension of the priced area, which was proposed in 2011 and based on occupancy. But I guess this merely shows the 70% occupancy-based trigger in action.

But compare the price zone map above (which seems to be from 2009 or 2010) with the 2013 one below. There do seem to be some small changes in boundaries in the northern third of the map.

Budapest's 2013 pricing zone map via http://www.futas.net/hungary/Budapest/budapest-parkolas.html

This suggests that data is probably driving minor changes.

So, even with the fee levels set with reference to public transport fares, and even with a cap based on double the recent gasoline price average, it is still possible that occupancy is a key factor in the price levels in each zone and the boundaries between zones.

The zone adjustments and the clues from the 2010 debate above do suggest that this may be the case.

But I wish I could find something explicit on how it works.

Preliminary conclusion: Budapest is not exactly Shoup-style demand-responsive pricing but its price zone adjustments may rely on occupancy data to some extent. 

Budapest has an interesting approach to setting its on-street parking prices.  And the 2010 national law makes occupancy central to decisions on extending on-street pricing.  

Occupancy seems to be an important element in its pricing zone decisions.  If this process is methodical and explicit then maybe Budapest is a member of the demand-responsive parking pricing club.

But I am not completely sure yet.

Can anyone shed further light on this?

Is an occupancy target range the primary factor (or even a big factor) in the price zone decisions? How exactly does it work?
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Friday, June 13, 2014

Calgary's demand-responsive on-street parking pricing

Calgary's demand-responsive on-street parking pricing
Did you know that the Canadian prairie city of Calgary has adopted the "Shoupista" policy of demand-responsive on-street parking pricing?

Starting January 2014, in Calgary's central area
... on-street rates will be reviewed annually using ParkPlus data. Rates will be adjusted by a maximum of $0.25 per year according to demand. Specifically:
  • In areas where occupancy is below 50%, prices will decrease by $0.25;
  • In areas where occupancy is above 80%, prices will increase by $0.25;
  • In areas where occupancy is between 50-80%, prices will stay the same.
Was there much controversy about this? If so, I missed it.

There has been one initial price adjustment so far in which some prices went down $0.25, some up $0.25 while some remained the same, depending on the demand in each time period for each area. See this set of maps (pdf) for details. 

Prices vary among modest-sized zones, not from block to block, as in SFPark.

To give an idea of scale, the large  island at the bend in the river is about 1 km from east to west. So the price zones here are often about 500 metres or less across.

The time periods that can have different prices for the same location are:  Weekdays: 09:00 – 11:00, Weekdays: 11:00 – 13:30; Weekdays: 13:30– 15:30; Weekdays 15:30 – 18:00; and Saturdays 9:00 – 18:00.

See also their interactive map showing occupancies and (with a click) the prices for each location.

Do readers have additional insights on how this is going so far? Did all of these locations already have priced parking before this initiative?
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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Japan's proof-of-parking rule has an essential twin policy

Japan's proof-of-parking rule has an essential twin policy
As you may know, Japanese law requires motorists to prove they have access to a local parking space. To register a car, or when changing address, motorists need to obtain a "parking space certificate" ("garage certificate" or "Shako shomei sho") from local police. If you are curious, look at Kanagawa's English instructions on how to obtain the certificate.

This rule is fascinating. It seems important. It might even be a useful model for others.

But please understand that the proof-of-parking rule does not stand alone. It has an essential twin policy.

This is what a "shako shomei" or parking place certificate looks like
(via farmofminds dot com)
The rule was enacted in 1962 and initially applied only to the large cities, according to a footnote on page 243 of "Local Government in Japan" by Kurt Steine (1965). However, it now seems to apply much more widely.

Proof-of-parking's twin: a ban on overnight parking in the streets

Under Japan's 1957 Parking Law on-street parking is actually generally banned!

It allows for "temporary" exceptions however. These have persisted for more than 57 years now.These exceptions allow for some daytime and evening on-street parking, not overnight parking. (For more information on the exceptions see this pdf by my collaborators in Japan.)

Parking meter parking in Tokyo.
For example, you will find a modest number of metered on-street parking spaces in Japanese cities. These have a 60 minute time limit. But, as the Japan Experience site advises,
"Beware, the police tolerates free parking in the evening (parking meters stop working at night), but after 3 am, ALL vehicles parked in parking meter car parks will be towed away."

In fact, my understanding from interviews in Tokyo in 2009 is that all-night parking in the streets is generally not allowed in Japan's cities.  Can anyone confirm this?

Ah, that's why Japan's proof-of-parking rule doesn't corrupt its police officers!

Some might say that Japanese police officers are uniquely incorruptible. I don't buy that.

In my view, the overnight parking ban is the key.

This is an important issue. Hanoi tried proof-of-parking but quickly abandoned it for fear of corruption. I wonder how it is going in the Indian states that have adopted it.

Yet, the policy has worked well in Japan for more than half a century and I cannot find reports of anyone cheating or bribing or lying to get a certificate. Can you?

Why should this be?

Because the ban on all-night parking makes it futile to cheat on the proof-of-parking rule.

Even if you did cheat to get your proof-of-parking certificate, where will you put your car? You still can't park overnight in the streets. Try it and your car would be towed within a day or two.

This explains why it is no big deal that an exception is made (in some areas) for tiny cars or "kei" cars, which have yellow license plates. Owners of these little cars may not need to prove access to a parking space but they still can't park in the streets overnight!

So, can others emulate proof-of-parking?

My argument implies that other places wanting to emulate Japan's proof-of-parking rule will need to find their own twin policy. They need something to play the role of the overnight parking ban, so that cheating becomes pointless. 

Basically, you would need very effective control over on-street parking and a very efficient parking permits system that avoids issuing too many permits. Not easy. And these steps can be prone to corruption problems too, of course. 

Simpler to just ban street parking as Japan did. Probably not an option for most other places but it might be in areas with very narrow streets. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

When Parking Supply affects Relationships between Neighbours

I live on a narrow medieval street that feeds into the centre of a small dense city outside of Stuttgart, Germany (Esslingen, if you know the area). We moved to this street because of its cozy feel, cobble-stoned streets, and beautiful old timbered houses. We knew it wasn’t for everyone because houses are right on top of each other, leaving little space for sunrays to penetrate through windows. We can practically see the expressions on neighbors’ faces across the street. Still, it never occurred to me that parking might be a reason not to move here. Until my friend, who lives about 1.5 km away, quipped at me out of frustration when there was nowhere for her to park when she quickly stopped by, “You knew there was no parking when you moved here”. I sputtered something in defense of our choice of residence, but in reality, I had never really thought about it. As non-car owners, parking was simply not on our radar. After that, I noticed more instances where parking availability factored into major life choices. A woman who worked in downtown Stuttgart bragged to our assembled group that at her home in the suburbs she never had to search for parking. In unison, the group groaned out of envy.

I have come to learn that when parking spaces are limited, who owns one and how they are used can affect relationships between neighbors. We use the parking space that came with our apartment for bike parking--see video below to see how it works (and how kids see it as a toy). Most people who happen to be walking by when we access the bikes make some kind of comment (mostly positive) about our unusual use of the space. But one neighbour who saw the garage went to the police and complained that we are using a car parking space for bicycles when on-street parking is in such short supply. He thought we should be forced to use it for a car or lose our residential parking permit. He didn’t get very far since we don’t own a car and therefore don’t have a parking permit.

In discussions about parking, policies like parking minimums/maximums, supply levels, or parking prices are heavily debated. Unspoken in these debates are the myriad ways that policies can affect people’s lives or relationships. While such considerations may be superfluous to most policy discussions, they are highly relevant when deciding how to communicate parking policies. Parking policies have real implications for decisions like where we shop, how we visit our friends or relatives, or whether we see our neighbours as competitors for precious space.

In a world where parking is often seen as a right—as evidenced by my friend who questioned my judgement for moving to a street with limited parking—restrictive parking policies can push nerves as well as pocket books. Without a corresponding communication campaign to build support for an increase in parking prices or decrease in supply, resentment against the policies are sure to build. That’s why a better understanding of people’s travel routines can help to fine-tune communications campaigns that are aiming to increase support for more restrictive parking policies. For example, if a decrease in public parking supply due to an extension in residential parking zones will disproportionately inconvenience office workers it might be worthwhile to target a campaign at this group, explaining the reasons for the changes and pointing out alternatives relevant to them.

What are some best practices in the area of communication campaigns for parking policies? If so, do you have examples of communication campaigns around parking policy that tailored its message to a certain target group?